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The Ultimate Rental Guide to Finding Your Dream Home

posted on March 26, 2024

Searching for a place to rent can be an arduous but necessary process as it ultimately determines where a part of your life will be spent. But did you know that it can also affect your health? Where you choose to live can have an impact on your health, your behaviour, and your overall well-being. Factors such as crime rate, reliable transit, and proximity to recreation facilities add up to create the overall environment of your prospective neighbourhood. Though these traits are easily observable, the typical renter is not likely to stop and think about the cumulative effect that they have on their well-being. When you frame it that way, it makes undertaking a comprehensive rental search prior to signing a contract even more important.

Luckily, we noticed that there is a gap in the literature available to prospective renters, and we wanted to fix that! Consider this the ultimate guide to finding your dream rental home and follow along as we guide you through important considerations and discussions before you say yes to the address. Make sure your next rental checks all the boxes for your wants and needs.

Assessing Your Needs and Preferences

🔲 The place fits within your budget

When it really comes down to it, only you know what amount of money you make and what you are comfortable spending. However, if you are looking for a benchmark, Financial Analysts usually advise that you should be spending around 30% of your gross income (before taxes). Though it is also important to acknowledge that economic times have changed since the inception of that advice, it can be used as a starting baseline. You may need to spend more than 30% of your income on housing, but you can adjust in other areas of your life such as spending less on eating out.

Also, make sure you consider additional fees like rental insurance and parking costs when deciding your budget.

🔲 Desired amenities are included

Think realistically about what you want a rental to include. This includes looking at your life now as well as for the duration of the time you expect to rent.

If you are a gym rat, it's likely you won’t want to rent in a building without a fitness facility. Similarly, if you are thinking of buying a car you will want to make sure you choose a rental that has adequate parking.

🔲 The rental offers a good location and proximity to work, schools, and other activities

Even if you find the best rental in the world, it won’t be beneficial if you do not have enough time to enjoy it. Before signing that lease, consider if your new home is close to the places and activities you do daily. How long is the commute to your work? Is this an amount of time that you are willing to sacrifice daily?

Researching Neighbourhoods

🔲 You have explored different neighbourhoods in the desired area

Now that you have an idea of where you’d like to live, go ahead and spend some time in the neighbourhood. Some factors such as noise pollution or cleanliness can only truly be assessed in person. Grab a coffee, take a walk around the prospective neighbour, and get a good idea if you can see yourself fitting in there.

You can consider factors such as how safe you feel if there are community activities and groups present, and, ultimately, if the neighbourhood lives up to your expectations and what you have seen online.

🔲 There is accessible public transportation

Whether you own a vehicle or not, living somewhere close to public transit is beneficial. You may want to grab a few drinks with a friend and not have to drive or you may want to cut down your gas expenses.

Type in your potential new address as well as some of your favourite establishments and locations. How easily can you get to them without driving? Are they a quick bus ride away, or do they require an arduous public transit journey?

Utilizing Online Platforms

🔲 You’ve completed a thorough search of popular rental websites and apps

Take advantage of all the popular websites and applications that you can use to find a rental. Rent Near Me is a website that lets you search for properties in the Niagara area. You can search by all the regular filters such as neighbourhood, price, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms. Helpfully, you can specify your search even further by filtering for rentals that include utilities, include appliances, have keyless entry, offer in-suite laundry, have a lawn, and more.

Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji are other popular search options for prospective tenants.

🔲 The listing is legitimate and does not set off any warning bells

On less formal rental listings, such as those on Facebook marketplace, sometimes you have to read between the lines and analyze the posting. “Cozy” can be a sly way of saying cramped and “charming” can really mean old and out of date.

To be a smart renter, you need to think critically about these listings. If something seems like it is too good of a deal to be true, it likely is. Also, do not feel pressured by owners telling you that “this place is rarely available” or that you need to “move fast.”

A few other red flags to look out for are:

  • Being asked to pay money before signing a lease;
  • Not being allowed to tour the rental; and
  • Being asked to pay in an unusual way such as by gift card, wire transfer, or in cash.

Engaging with Leasing/Property Managers

🔲 You’ve considered working with a professional in the rental market

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the information to consider that we have listed above, you are not alone. This is why there is an entire field of rental professionals that can help you in your search. Most realtors will help you find a rental for free, or you can contact a property management company to connect you with a rental professional.

🔲 You’ve visited the property in person

Before you visit the property, it is beneficial to have an idea of areas of concern for which you want to look. One good place to start is common areas. Highly visible areas like the lobby are likely kept clean, but what state are the stairwells or the laundry room in? This can be a good indicator of the level of care the Super or Property Manager is willing to invest in the building. Similarly, lawn and parking lot maintenance are important. You can ask the frequency with which the lot is cleared of snow or the lawn is mowed and determine if the state of the area reflects that number accurately.

When you are in the rental property, try and check every area, appliance, or object you think might have hidden problems. Check if the dishwasher functions and does not leak water. Make sure windows open properly. Turn on the tap or the shower and check that the water heating and temperature is to your liking.

🔲 You’ve asked the Property Manager questions

You may want to have some questions pre-prepared for the Property Manager. For example:

  • What is their plan if your furniture doesn’t fit through the doorway? Do they have a Sky Jack that can be used?
  • You can also ask what year the building was built in because, in Ontario, buildings built after 2018 are not subject to any form of rent control. If the building was built before 2018, the landlord can set your starting rent at any rate but will then be limited to raising the rent once a year at a maximum of 2.5%. The landlord must also give you between one and three months’ notice depending on the length of your lease. Rent control regulations for your province are crucial to know so that you don’t commit to a rental that could be increased beyond your means.
  • Ask what their rules are around pets and know your rights. In Canada, it is illegal to ban pets in apartments.

🔲 You understand the lease agreement process and its importance

No matter who you rent from, you need a lease. It does not matter if your landlord is a friend or a family member, having the conditions of your stay outlined and signed by both parties protects you. Even the best relationships can lead to disputes, and you want to ensure you have your rental terms committed to in writing.

  • Before signing anything, make sure you have read the document thoroughly. Remember, a lease is a legal document and you will be held responsible for its terms.
    • First and foremost, make sure the price and due date of rent is clearly stated and matches your agreement with the landlord.
    • Be sure to check whether you are required to provide a security deposit. It may just be first and last month’s rent, but it also may be a different amount to ensure your proper maintenance of the rental. Also check that the lease includes conditions that must be met in order to have your deposit returned, as well as specifies how it will be returned to you – whether via cheque or in application to a rent payment.
    • Make sure the document includes all the extras you have discussed with the landlord. Factors such as rent including utilities or gym access could easily be missing from the lease, leaving you with no proof of what you were promised.
    • Check if you are allowed to sublet or not. Some leases will not allow for this and, should you want to move elsewhere or travel, you are responsible for payments for the full lease.
    • The lease will specify if rental insurance is required to live there.
    • Verify what the rules are for smoking in the apartment and if they match your lifestyle.

🔲 The Landlord/Super is someone that you can see yourself building a positive relationship with

Find out who you will be dealing with when it comes to maintenance requests and other important rental communications. It is easiest to ask upfront how this individual wants to be contacted and what their roles and responsibilities include. If you can speak with them, try and judge how effectively you think you would be able to communicate and work with them. A Super that is rude or dismissive is not an individual that you want in charge should an emergency arise.


“Good things don’t come easy” is a popular saying for its truthfulness. Unfortunately, it also applies to the rental search process. However, the good news is that you can prepare and educate yourself to make the search as easy as possible.

Stay informed, do your research, analyze advertisements critically, and meet those in charge of maintenance in person if possible. Enter your next rental search confidently and ensure your continued well-being